Tribute to poet and Auburn alumnus at Jule Collins Smith Museum Oct. 16

Published: October 09, 2014
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On Thursday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m., a reading and celebration in honor of Auburn University alumnus Jake Adam York will be held at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art as part of the museum's monthly Third Thursday Poetry Series. The York tribute will serve as an opening event for this year's Auburn Writers Conference.

The fifth annual Auburn Writers Conference will bring students, faculty and many regional writers together for "The Inspired South," two days of creative writing workshops and readings Oct. 17-18.

York, who died at 40 in the winter of 2012, was an award-winning poet, celebrated author of four poetry collections and a fifth-generation Alabamian. He first came to poetry working with the Auburn English Department's faculty, and went on to write poems with both love and anguish, said Keetje Kuipers, an assistant professor in Auburn's Department of English and co-coordinator of the Third Thursday Poetry Series. York examined race relations in the South by celebrating the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement and questioning his own complicity in its tragedies.

The earliest versions of the poems – which have since garnered numerous awards and publication honors – can be found in York's senior thesis, written at Auburn and housed in the university's Ralph Brown Draughon Library. Many of the individual poems can also be found in earlier editions of Auburn University's student literary magazine, "The Circle," where York first published his poems as an undergraduate.

At the Thursday evening reading, poets and friends Dan Albergotti, Jeanie Thompson, Brian Barker and York's long-time editor Jon Tribble, will present a tandem reading from York's posthumously published collection, "Abide." Joining them will be Amanda Gunn, the winner of the "Southern Humanities Review" Auburn Witness Poetry Prize in Honor of Jake Adam York. This is the first year that Auburn's storied national literary magazine has offered the prize, and the editors are proud to be able to honor York's legacy in this way.

Pulitzer Prize winning author and former Auburn English professor Natasha Trethewey described York's collection of poems, "A Murmeration of Starlings," as a fierce, beautiful and necessary book. According to Trethewey, his work was fearless in its reckoning. The poems resurrected contested histories and show us that the past – with its troubled beauty, its erasures and its violence – weighs upon us all, a murmuration so that we don't forget, so that no one disappears into history.

"This memorial celebration of Jake Adam York will pay tribute not only to York's work, but also his deep and enduring commitment to his home and community in Alabama and Auburn," said Kuipers. "York's legacy as a writer of tremendous conviction and fearless examination recasts our gaze, both in Alabama and as a nation. Looking back into a difficult history can be a terrifying proposition, but, as his poems demonstrate, the tremendous reward is a richly renewed sight that allows not only for witness but also for renewed compassion."

Sponsors include Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Department of English, the Office of Access and Community Initiatives and the Multicultural Center.

The Third Thursday Poetry Series has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For questions about the Auburn Writers Conference or opening event, contact Keetje Kuipers in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts at For more information about the museum, visit or call (334) 844-1484.

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